Saturday, February 28, 2009

455. The ride home

As announced in the last entry, the State Democratic Party met today and did what is was expected to do, which was to elect Charles Moore as the new chair. That left me with a decision to make - which route to take back home.

I've written before of the twelve ways to and from Frankfort. Because I haven't been out in the state much since the turn of the year (with one notable exception), I had decided when I left this morning for the meeting that coming home would be a leisurely drive. I had/have no where to be until later tonight for a dinner date. I did not have tickets to see UK's 70-73 loss to LSU, who had their tenth win in a row and thus seized this year's SEC regular season title. So there was no sense driving over to Lexington, something I usually do following a meeting.

But I did want to do some driving. As I've mentioned before I keep track of which counties I've been through during the course of a year by marking them on a Kentucky Highway Map, such as the 2009-2010 version just released. This year, due to ice storms, windstorms, and what seems like a much-longer-than-usual winter, I've really been no where out of the ordinary. In fact, I haven't been much anywhere in the ordinary. The notable exception mentioned above was the trek across the state en route to President Obama's Inauguration in January, and the return trip along the same roads. In that trip, I had planned a short side-trip, but weather conditions prohibited everything but a straight east-west route on I-64. The truth is, other than the counties encountered on that trip, I've only been to one other, Bullitt.

Today's trip back only added one county, but it provided for a nice drive nonetheless. So, when leaving the KDP HQ, from Democrat Drive to Duncan Road, I turned left, which is to say directionally north onto westbound US60, called Versailles Road and from there entered upon the ramp to westbound I-64, the most normal route between the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 and Kentucky's capital city, which is located along both banks of the Kentucky River near Milepost 66.

After passing the new three-lane wide portion of the interstate, the three lanes which start nowhere in particular and end a few miles further on, also nowhere in particular, I decided I'd be exitting at the Shelbyville/Taylorsville exit onto KY55, which having arrived there, I did, to the south. This road very quickly leaves the built-up sections of Shelbyville and for several miles is a cascade of large country estates and small rural homes, evenutally yielding to the village of Finchville. My youngest uncle and his wife were married at the Baptist Church is this little burg almost thirty years ago. Passing through town the road becomes a rural highway once again, but an interesting thing happens once you cross out of Shelby and into Spencer County (the newest addition to my 2009 travels).

Suddenly much of the farmland has been given over to subdivisions. Northern Spencer County has grown by leaps and bounds during the last fifteen to twenty years, as is evident by this stretch of road. Before very long, KY55 comes to an intersection with KY155, and the 55 designation is directed to the south into the Spencer County seat of Taylorsville, a fairly sleepy little town, even on the busiest of days, and this wasn't the busiest of days. I drove into downtown Taylorsville, which is two blocks along Railroad Street, and four more along Main Street (shown in the picture looking east, not west as I was travelling). The town of Taylorsville and the name Main Street come to an end upon KY44's crossing over Brashear's Creek, where the name of the road changes to Mount Washington, the next town of importance along this route.

I will add here that the route KY44 traverses from here westward to Shepherdsville is known in history as the Wilderness Road, the old buffalo trail which begins in Kentucky (arguably) at the Cumberland Gap, proceeds to Crab Orchard, and from there to Harrodsburg, thence westward to this area and Shepherdsville, thence north to Okolona along Preston Highway, ultimately ending around where 26th Street would meet the Ohio River in the Portland neighborhood of Louisville, at which point the animals would ford acorss when the water levels at the Falls allowed. But, I digress.

Back in Spencer County, along KY44W, west of Taylorsville, at the top of the hill on the right is the Valley Cemetery, one of Taylorsville's older cemeteries, but also the one which during its recent growth has, invariably, grown as well. A dear friend of mine from many years ago, Gary Housley, is buried there. He was born the year after me and passed away in 1991. I always stop at his grave when in the area and did so today.

This stretch of highway, like KY55 on the northside of the county, is quickly becoming a string of subdivisions, dotting both sides of the road, and this pattern continues from this side of Mount Washington where you cross into Bullitt County, through that city, and from there over to Shepherdsville. I can remember when there were very few structures between these two towns, and the only excitement along the road was the old bridge across the Floyd's Fork of Salt River near Brasher's Station, named for the same person as was the creek back in Spencer County. That narrow steel bridge has been replaced by a very plain but also very wide standard-issue concrete deck, along with wide approaches from both directions, far more safe that the older decking, but not nearly as emotive.

Eventually the Bullitt County seat of Shepherdsville came upon me, at which point I entered onto the northbound ramp of I-65 and made my way northward making the ride home.

That's all for February.

Friday, February 27, 2009

454. (S)Election Day in Frankfort; Limited Electorate

Tomorrow the Kentucky Democratic Party State Central Executive Committee will meet at 11:00am at the Wendell H. Ford Headquarters on Democrat Drive in Frankfort. The agenda includes the election of a new Chair and Vice Chair, thus passing the gavel of the Party's leadership. The By-Laws provide different ways of achieving this goal. Article VIII, Section D of the KDP By-Laws outlines the process. These By-Laws may come in handy tomorrow as no names have been confirmed for the lesser position. In 2005, a vacancy occurred in the lesser position and a committee was formed to interview nominees. I served on that committee as the 3rd Congressional District's representative. We'll see if tomorrow brings into play a similar scenario.

Getting the governor's nod for Chair (and thus my support), according to word on the street and in the electronic media, is Charlie Moore, a Union County attorney with a long-standing and well-considered law practice in neighboring Daviess County. Mr. Moore's wife, Brucie, is the Union County Attorney, having first been elected (I believe) in 2002. They reside in Waverly, which is also home to a former college roommate of mine.

This will be my third meeting as a State-At-Large member of the Committee, having been appointed to that position by the full Committee in September, 2008. As with all meetings of the Kentucky Democratic Party, any registered Democrat in the state may attend.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

453. Obama

Last night, the 44th President of the United States of America addressed the Congress and the people of America in prime time. His report on the state of the union was grim but hopeful. By now everyone has written all the highlights as well as the afterthoughts and responses of those in lesser positions of leadership, including Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. In his speech, the president asked for much and for the sake of the country, the Congress should give him what he has asked for.

But for a minute, let's revisit Election Night 2008. Several people asked last night and in this morning's papers, and no doubt on all the talking-head shows I never watch, "What gives him the idea he can ask for so much?" The answer is simple. He has a mandate from the people of America. Back on November 4th, in an historic election with the greatest turnout in 40 years, 52% of the voters cast a ballot for Barack Obama - I was one of them. 9,522,083 more people thought a Democrat should lead the nation than a Republican. Of the 50 states, Obama won 28 of them. He also picked up the electoral vote of Nebraska's Second Congressional District, which is made up of the city of Omaha and its suburbs in Douglas and Sarpy counties, an area represented in the Congress since 1999 by Republican Lee Terry. The point is President Obama has a right to ask for these things because we the people gave him that right in no uncertain terms.

Watching the President's Address to the Congress, I was mostly struck by those occassions, several, where the Republicans sat on their hands, denying the decision of the November 4th voters, and defying the current 64% approval rating of the president and by extension, his policies, programs, and proposals. I did see Senators McCain and McConnell occassionally offer applause, but not much. When the entire Republican House and all but three members of the Republican Senate decided with their No votes that partisanship is more important that patriotism, I then decided we don't need them.

Although the Democrats don't have the magic 60th Senate vote to keep the Republican Obstructionist-In-Chief Mitch McConnell from obstructing progress for the next two years, it is very obvious the Democratic Party is in ascendancy, an ascendancy begun in 2006 along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 here in the 3rd Congressional District of Kentucky by the election of Congressman John Yarmuth. That determination, to set right the politics and policies of Republicans leading back from Dick Cheney to George Bush to Newt Gingrich to Ronald Reagan and to the Barry Goldwater of 1964, is spreading from that 2006 beginning - spreading into places like North Carolina and Indiana and Virginia and Colorado and Nevada and the Second Congressional District of Nebraska.

Back in January, I posted an entry which, inter alia, speaks of the 2010 congressional midterms, a time when the Party in control of the White House historically loses seats. And while the current times are historic, they are demonstrably different than most midterms given the state of the economy. Many have said or are saying we are in the worst economic times since the Republican-created Great Depression of the 1920s. Others have said we are, in fact, in a second Depression. In 1932, the voters elected a Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt, who proceded to try and fix what was wrong with America - and then like now, much was wrong. The history books write the fixing didn't happen right away. In fact, it took a very long time. But the voters, the people who make our Democracy a Republic, were fed up with the Republican excesses of the 1920s and they gave FDR something different in his first set of midterms - even more Democrats, and thus even more time.

So, with the support of the American people, the Democratic Congress led by the Democratic President are taking steps to reform and rebuild America while the Republicans are, as they were last night, doing nothing but sitting down on the job.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

452 - 9617

452-9617 was my uncle's phone number when I was a kid. Back then, you could look at the first two digits of a phone number and be able to generalize as to where in Louisville that person (or business) was located. The numbers beginning with 45- were generally somewhere between Preston Highway and Taylorsville Road, from Broadway out to about the Watterson, except over in Buechel those numbers went all the way out to where Fern Creek (the creek named Fern, not the town named for the creek) crosses under Bardstown Road. I grew up with a 96- number. That area was out Preston Highway, Poplar Level Road, and what was then called Old Shepherdsville Road, but now is known as simply Shepherdsville Road. To the east of this area, starting around Vaughn Mill Road and extending east to Seatonville Road, and south of the aforementioned creek named Fern were the 23- numbers. To the west of the 96- area was a large swath covered by the 36- numbers. It started just south of Eastern Parkway and ran from Preston Highway over to 7th Street Road, and out to Fairdale and the county line. West of that area, all the way out Dixie, from south of Rockford Lane were the 93- numbers. North from there from 7th Street Road, south of Berry, and west over to the Ohio River, were 44- numbers. The west side of downtown Louisville had 77- numbers, while downtown was restricted to 58- numbers. Starting south of Oak Street, from 9th over to Preston and out to Churchill Downs were 63- numbers. The upper east side, from the other side (meaning the east side) of Cave Hill and out Lexington Road, Frankfort Avenue, Brownsboro Road, and Shelbyville Road to the Watterson were 89- numbers. On the northeast side of the county were 22- numbers, fitting in with the 22- numbers in Oldham County. Generally those in Jefferson were 228, while those in Oldham were 222. From Brownsboro Road around to about I-64 and out to the Snyder Freeway were 42- numbers. Beyond that, along the eastern edge of the county were 24- numbers. And finishing up the county, on the southeast side, south of Middletown and east of Fern Creek (the community, not the creek), were 26- numbers. Here and there were a few anomalies, but not many. For instance, way out Dixie were the 922 and 942 numbers, serving West Point (in Hardin County) which was a local call and Fort Knox (in Hardin, Meade, and Bullitt) which wasn't. All along the Bullitt County line, the 95- numbers creeped across the line here and there as did the 47- numbers from Spencer County. On the east and northern sides, the system worked the other way with the 24- and 22- numbers lapping, respectively, over into Shelby and Oldham counties. At that time, calling across the river involved adding the prefix 50- to the number. To call my aunt in Clarksville, one would dial 50- then the number. This was true for all the numbers over there in New Albany, Georgetown, Galena, Clarksville, Sellersburg, Jeffersonville, and Charlestown. However, parts of Clark County, north of Sellersburg (such as Borden and New Washington) were then and still are long distance. Even so, we had an extensive local calling area, with all of Jefferson and Oldham being able to call all of those two counties, plus much of Floyd and Clark across the river, and quite a bit of northern Bullitt County, which had three or four different phone systems. The folks in the northern part of the county were on the Echo Telephone Company, later Pioneer, and finally BellSouth, which is known this year as AT&T. That part of the county, now known as Hillview, was previously defined by two communities, the more rural Zoneton and the subdivisions off Preston originally called Maryville. If nothing else, they had a great local calling area, encompassing all of Jefferson and Oldham in Kentucky, part of Floyd and Clark in Indiana, but interestingly, not all of Bullitt, their home county. For many years, and it may still be the case, Shepherdsville, Zoneton, Mount Washington, Lebanon Junction, and the western environs of the county within the Fort Knox reservation, had differing phone services. East and west, the divide was along Floyds Fork on the east of Shepherdsville, and Blue Lick Creek on the west. North and south, the line was less defined, but somewhere south of KY245 on the south side of Shepherdsville, and along Bells Mill Road on the north side. Fort Knox had its own system. I do not know if all this is still the case.

Now, we have caller ID. It tells us the number and usually the name. But it doesn't tell us from where they are calling. No longer can we automatically judge a caller by their phone number. That's might be a good thing. Maybe.

The next time you are downtown at the Main Library, pull out an old telephone directory from the 1960s or 1970s. The are on the second floor, to the right when you exit the elevators. In the center was the map telling you where it was people were calling from - a kind of old-fashioned precursor to Caller ID.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

451. If you burn books, what will people read? By extension, who is reading this blog?

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 was written in the early 1950s. I read it in college and it wasn't as easy a read as I had thought it would be. I read it the same year I read George Orwell's 1984, which relates a related but totally different take on how governments might [or have] come to control our thoughts.

While both books deal with thought control in different ways, Fahrenheit 451 has as its central theme book burning. This entry isn't going to be about book burning, an abhorrent thought to a bibliophile such as myself. Rather, I want to visit a subject I haven't in some time - my five faithful readers. Truth be told, my readersip has dropped off considerably in the last eight weeks for a variety of reasons, the main one I suppose being my lack of posts.

As for the five faithful readers, I know who some of you are and I'm surprised now and then by others who out themselves as a regular visitor here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. That has happened in some odd places - at a church dinner, at a party at Bowman Field (a Republican no less), and at my late Uncle Paul's funeral visitation in Clarksville. There are cities other than Louisville that regularly pop up in the list of visitors and I've come to expect them when I check my statistics.

But there are always others and I wonder about them. Some come for only a moment - literally one or two seconds, others for a page or two, and a few for extended periods. I've listed below some of the different cities listed in my visitors log of the last 100 visitors. I've eliminated the regulars. If you are a first time visitor, make a comment - I'm curious as to who you are and how you got here. The comments can be very short or lengthy. I do not promise a reply - I rarely reply to comments, but then again I rarely get commments. The entry with the most comments is, oddly enough, not about politics or travel or history or the weather - categories which constitute most of my entries.

So, below are some of the cities listed. If one of these is yours, and you feel like leaving a few words, please do so. If any of the five faithful readers have any comments on these towns, cities, villages, and burgs, feel free to tell me about it.

Here is the list of cities, followed by their approximate distance from Louisville, distances which are usually about 20 to 40 miles shy of the actual distance:

Perryville, Missouri 229 - this one is getting to be regular visitor.
Bloomington, Indiana 75
Nashville, Tennessee 156
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 500
Hastings, Minnesota 577
Raleigh, North Carolina 426
Jamestown, New York 434
Alpharetta, Georgia 300
Round Rock, Texas 865
United Kingdom Belfast 3,742
Chambersburg, Pennsylvania 446
West Liberty, Kentucky 140
Glouster, Ohio 215
United Kingdom Brighton, East Sussex 4,060
United Kingdom Burnley, Lancashire 3,901
Birmingham, Alabama 333
Saint Charles, Illinois 289
Charlotte, North Carolina 344
United Kingdom Norwich, Norfolk 4,067
Indonesia Surabaya, Jawa Timur 9,997
Italy Gioia Tauro, Calabria 5,172
San Francisco, California 1,982
Detroit, Michigan 316
Northport, New York 686
Asheville, North Carolina 255
Orlando, Florida 720
Salem, South Carolina 276
Georgetown, Indiana 13* - this one is within the local calling zone, but a newcomer nonetheless.
Holland, Michigan 310
Sacramento, California 1,919
Mount Sterling, Kentucky 100
Canada Waterloo, Ontario 451
Rockport, Kentucky 93 - since I know someone in Rockport, I probably know who this is.
New Castle, Indiana

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

450. After Five Years, I've Decided

This morning, at the 10:30 am service of the Episcopal Church of the Advent, just prior to the service beginning, I approached Mary, who has some official pastoral role, and told her that when the "Inquirers Class" begins during Lent, I wanted to be a part of it. This will be the first real step toward separation from Holy Mother the Church, which is to say the Roman Catholic Church, and communion with other Episcopalians in the Anglican Communion.

There is a line in an old hymn, "Burdens are lifted at Calvary." This one was lifted at Baxter and Broadway.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy 200th, Mr. Lincoln

From the White House website --

16. ABRAHAM LINCOLN 1861-1865

Lincoln warned the South in his Inaugural Address: "In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you.... You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it."

Lincoln thought secession illegal, and was willing to use force to defend Federal law and the Union. When Confederate batteries fired on Fort Sumter and forced its surrender, he called on the states for 75,000 volunteers. Four more slave states joined the Confederacy but four remained within the Union. The Civil War had begun.

The son of a Kentucky frontiersman, Lincoln had to struggle for a living and for learning. Five months before receiving his party's nomination for President, he sketched his life:

"I was born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. My parents were both born in Virginia, of undistinguished families--second families, perhaps I should say. My mother, who died in my tenth year, was of a family of the name of Hanks.... My father ... removed from Kentucky to ... Indiana, in my eighth year.... It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up.... Of course when I came of age I did not know much. Still somehow, I could read, write, and cipher ... but that was all."

Lincoln made extraordinary efforts to attain knowledge while working on a farm, splitting rails for fences, and keeping store at New Salem, Illinois. He was a captain in the Black Hawk War, spent eight years in the Illinois legislature, and rode the circuit of courts for many years. His law partner said of him, "His ambition was a little engine that knew no rest."

He married Mary Todd, and they had four boys, only one of whom lived to maturity. In 1858 Lincoln ran against Stephen A. Douglas for Senator. He lost the election, but in debating with Douglas he gained a national reputation that won him the Republican nomination for President in 1860.

As President, he built the Republican Party into a strong national organization. Further, he rallied most of the northern Democrats to the Union cause. On January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared forever free those slaves within the Confederacy.

Lincoln never let the world forget that the Civil War involved an even larger issue. This he stated most movingly in dedicating the military cemetery at Gettysburg: "that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Lincoln won re-election in 1864, as Union military triumphs heralded an end to the war. In his planning for peace, the President was flexible and generous, encouraging Southerners to lay down their arms and join speedily in reunion.

The spirit that guided him was clearly that of his Second Inaugural Address, now inscribed on one wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C.: "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds.... "

On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre in Washington by John Wilkes Booth, an actor, who somehow thought he was helping the South. The opposite was the result, for with Lincoln's death, the possibility of peace with magnanimity died.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

448. The Mayor's Talk of the Town at the Metro Democratic Club

For those of you who are stopping by to see which backroads I travelled lately or which theatre seats I've warmed, this entry will be a distraction for you. You can choose to leave now without any concern on my part.

Despite the high winds (with gusts up to 60 mph from the WSW) which blew through here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 (winds which have died down to a mere 18 mph at present, still a pretty good clip), His Honor the Mayor of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro made an appearance at the Metro Democratic Club. For the second year in a row, he has given a speech on the State of the City, although his handlers are quick to point out that this speech isn't the State of the City, as that is a speech reserved for the very Republican-leaning Rotary Club. Thus far this year the State of the City address has not been made due to weather calamities. Tonight's less formal Talk of the Town was nearly derailed by a windstorm which passed through earlier in the day.

This year's speech to the Metro Democratic Club was far more somber and detailed than last year's, which according to some listeners was a bit too rosily-tinted. When the mayor spoke last year, 61 of the 64 people in attendance rose at the end to give him a standing ovation with a plesant amount of applause. I was among the three who didn't and was called out by one of the mayor's handlers the next day at an impromptu meeting in the Capital Annex in Frankfort. There were statements made last year which, in my opinion, had no basis in reality. Like so many of the speeches the mayor has made since his first election in 1985, there was too much cheering and too little serious examination. This year's speech was remarkably different, so much so that at the end most of the 72 people in attendance, while not rising, did applaud, and I was among them.

The mayor gave an honest account of the state of the City, as well as insights into the state of the Commonwealth and the Republic. I appreciated his very forthright speech about the economic peril all of the governments find themselves in. Much of the beginning of his speech was given over to a monologue on the Acts of God which have recently been perpetrated upon our big town: Hurricane Ike, an Ice Storm, and today's windstorm, all within a six month period, and more importantly, all within the current Fiscal Year, which was already facing a $20,000,000.00 shortfall - more on that in a moment.

Once the mayor got past the weather reports, his attention focussed in on economics and opportunities. The opportunities he spoke of were related to President Obama's Stimulus Bill, which has made considerable progess over the last twenty-four hours and is now being conferenced with a hopeful final vote very soon. According to a mayoral aide, the House version of the bill was 40% infrastructure money, something dear to me as well as many on both sides of the local Bridges Issue. The mayor said no money was requested for the Bridges Project in the current bill although there is a $6,000,000,000.00 setaside for a National Significant Projects fund [that may not be the exact name - the mayor struggled with its title], money which conceivably be used for Louisville's one, two, or three unbuilt bridges. For the record, I am opposed to a new bridge downtown.

The mayor talked about Louisville's tax revenues being tied to our occupational tax receipts. As a former member of the Louisville-Jefferson County Revenue Commission, I know whereof he speaks. Downfalls in employment are felt right away by the resulting decreases in occupational income. The mayor reported 25,255 new unemployment claims here in Jefferson County in December. That's at least 25,000+ employees no longer paying in to the government coffers, and that's just one month.

A question was raised about the proposed sixteen month downtime supposedly coming up for the Ford plant. The mayor was unaware of the sixteen month timeline, something UAW President Rocky Comito seemed to confirm my shaking his head up and down. That the mayor and Comito are not reading from the same page of the hymnal on this matter is of some concern.

Another question, which brought the only testy moments of the evening, was posed by my friend Dan Borsch. An aside - I find Borsch to be one of the more intelligent and creative young leaders in Louisville. Borsch, an attorney among other things, is a former candidate for the Metro Council in 2004 and the campaign chair for John Yarmuth's 2006 Congressional Primary. He asked about how the city's economic forecasters came up $20,000,000.00 short on their estimates last year. The mayor did not seem to know who Borsch was. Nonetheless he offered an answer defending his economic forecasters including one who is the economics chair (or something like that) at the University of Louisville. The mayor asked Dan if he was a U of L grad. I know he isn't. His degrees are from Michigan and Indiana. The mayor offered that our economic forecasters didn't do as poorly as those of some other cities in our region. That isn't exactly a consolation, although it does answer the question. "They were all wrong; our's weren't as wrong as their's but, again, they were all wrong."

Another light hearted question came from Ray Crider, Louisville's Democratic Party computer and camera guru. Ray asked what the mayor had done with all the money he had gotten from Anne? Everyone in the room knew what and who Ray was referring to but the mayor, politely smiling, demurred. Unlike the question asked by Borsch, for which the mayor found the justification for an answer, he properly felt Ray's question on the former congresswoman was best left unresponded-to.

The speech eventually came to an end, and with it the meeting. In attendance were Metro Council President David Tandy, Councilwoman Vicki Welch, Councilman Jim King, one of Jefferson County's District Court Judges (although I'd be lying if I pretended to know her name). Four bloggers were also there: Jacob Payne, Rick Redding, Ben Carter, and Ashley Cecil (who is also an artist). Stephen George of LEO and Dan Klepal of the C-J were present as part of the mainstream media's coverage, which is to say the LEO is getting more and more mainstream even while the C-J is wasting away to nothing. Marty Meyer was representing Congressman John Yarmuth's office. Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Jennifer Moore spoke briefly, then sat down eight feet from me, with nothing between us but space. But, she didn't speak. Not only is she not reading or responding to my emails, she apparently isn't speaking at all. Jefferson County Democratic Party Chair Tim Longmeyer was also present, and he too, didn't speak. Finally Lisa Tanner, who raised money in the Miller/Maze race in the Primary of 2007, and was a state organizer in the General of 2007 for Beshear/Mongiardo, as well as serving as John Yarmuth's 2008 Field Director, was also present.

It was a good meeting.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

447. Belknap Theater Visit and a Review

Last night I was unexpectedly invited to attend a play with my friend Chris. We had just finished a dinner celebrating his recent hiring to a new position. Another friend of his was in the cast, a young lady I had seen in a role last summer at Shakespeare in the Park, properly the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival. Before we arrived for the play, we were joined by another friend who is a student at the University of Louisville. The play was performed at the historic Belknap Theater, on the island between 2nd and 3rd streets, just south of Cardinal Boulevard, which older Louisvillians sometimes still refer to as Avery Avenue.

The play, commissioned by the University for Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday, was written by Minneapolis based actor and playwright Carlyle Brown, who has also been commissioned for other Louisville area productions. Its title was Abraham Lincoln and Uncle Tom at the White House. The play borrowed from Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin in the first act, and used the second act for an imagined dialogue between Uncle Tom, played by Cecil Washington, Jr., and Abraham Lincoln, portrayed by Obadiah Ewing-Roush. While the history was intact, the play itself lacked. There was only so much the actors could do with the work they were given. Chris' actress friend, Tiffany LaVoie, played two different roles, one in each act, including, in the latter, that of Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln, the belle of Lexington who was well-known to be more than a little off-balance.

Two lines for me stood out, and neither because of the historicity of the play. In one scene Uncle Tom is begging the president to sign the Emancipation Proclamation, who responds "I'm waiting to do it, I'm wanting to do it, I'm willing to do it . . . " or something like that. The words seems to have come straight from Alfred Doolittle in My Fair Lady, one of my favorite plays in all of theaterdom, in response to a response from Professor Higgins as to why Eliza is at the professor's house. Another point in the play had Uncle Tom explaining he didn't know how he came to be in the White House, that he was just a character in Mrs. Beecher Stowe's play seeking an outlet. That is related to the premise of Luigi Pirandello's 1921 work Six Characters in Search of an Author. That's about all I can say about the play without being overly critical.

So, instead, let me write a short bit about the Belknap Theater or "The Playhouse" as it is called on the University campus. Randy, the U of L student with us, said the playhouse looked like a church. There is good reason. It was built in the 1870s to serve as a chapel as part of the House of Refuge, which served as the Jefferson County Poor House or Children's Asylum, as they were sometimes called back then. The House of Refuge was located where, at the time, Third Street came to a dead end. About 100 years after its construction, it was dismantled to make way for the William F. Ekstrom Library and relocated to its present location, north of the Confederate Monument, in what is now called Freedom Park. As it was rebuilt it was expanded to serve a number of needs of the University's Theater Arts Department.

I attended events at the Playhouse quite a bit shortly after its relocation with friends of mine who had been students in the very early days of the Youth Performing Arts School, a block north of the site on Second Street. Last night's return was my first in nearly three decades, as best I remember. My ticket, by the way, indicated I was seated in Row K, Seat 105. No one else would have noticed, but that happens to be the Jefferson County precinct number, K-105, where the Playhouse is located.

Friday, February 6, 2009

446. Warmer Weather Warms the Weary

The temperature today is set to push through the 20s this morning, then through the 30s and 40s, and end up at 50 or so. The warmup continues tomorrow into the 60s. For friends and neighbors, both here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606, and elsewhere across Kentucky and southern Indiana, Thanks Be To God.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

445. Snow

Ok, it's better than ice.

This morning we woke up to snow. One to three inches expected.

If LG&E's track record is any indication, the power should start failing any minute now. That's assuming you already have power. About 30000 customers are still without it from last week's ice storm.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

444. Movie Reviews - Spoiler Alert (sort of)

Those of you who know me well know I do not do movies. Up until a few weeks ago, I hadn't been to a movie in years. I've never liked dedicating a few hours of my life to a less-than-acceptable made-up story often portrayed by less-than-capable made-up actors. It is related to my aversion to television although I'm not quite sure exactly how. In the nearly twenty-five years I haven't watched television, I've probably been to a movie theatre twenty times at most. Several of those would have been to see Rocky Horror at the old Vogue Theatre in Saint Matthews, and maybe two or three more were special films, the most recent of which was Fake ID in 2003. Doing movies just isn't my thing. Over in the categories column on the right, there really isn't one that doing a movie review will fit into, unless it is uncategorized.

Having said all that, I must tell you in the last three weeks, amidst illness, inaugural, and icestorm, twice I've been found in the dark confines of a movie theatre. My friend Preston and I agreed to see two movies, both for their historical significance. Historical must be taken in context here. The movies both covered real political, cultural events which took place roughly a year and a half apart. I hesitate to say they were historical out of vanity. Both occurred during my lifetime; neither occurred during Preston's so for him the historic appellation is more appropriate.

The movies we viewed were Frost/Nixon and Milk. Both are strong representations of events that historically occurred, each having significance in American history. The Frost/Nixon debates took place in April, 1977, just as my junior year of high school was coming to an end. It was a politically and historically siginificant time in my life as I had just won my first big race, that of Student Government President of my high school, defeating the favored pick in a big way. I had ran for class office in 7th, 8th, 9th, and 11th grades, losing every single time, several times to the same person. Finally, at the end of 11th grade, my election as Student Government President of Durrett High School was an important milestone. David Frost's interviews with the former president were taking place at exactly the same time. As a politically interested and active student, I am sure I followed the interviews, although I'd be lying if I said I actually remember doing so - I don't.

I have always been something of an apologist for the former president on certain matters. I think because of his criminal activity with regard to Watergate, his domestic policy contributions have long been overlooked. I've written here before that he was one of the last of the "government can be the answer" New Deal type presidents. In his early years, and perhaps in his personal life and belief system, Nixon may have been a conservative. On the other hand his presidency, other than the problems with Vietnam and his involvement in Watergate, was an example of pragmatic liberalism, fostering programs such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Philadelphia Plan of Affimative Action. He was also one of the first presidents since Harry Truman (and one of the last) to seriously address the idea of universal healthcare for all Americans, although like Truman, the plan never got off the planning paper. But, all of that, much good and well-known bad, was put down with the interviews by the British television personality David Frost.

The movie tells two distinct stories; first that of Frost, who agonizes over how to finance the project, an agony which was not overcome until after the broadcasts. The other story is that of the lonely yet oddly and uncomfortably amiable Nixon, with a mind and persona fully permeated by the deep rejection he received from the American people after Watergate. Both actors play their characters well, but I think the dark and brooding offering from Frank Langella as the president is sure to remain in people's minds as a reminder of this once great presence on the world's stage then reduced by a belief that the president can and should be above the law. It was an excellent movie.

About a year and half after the Nixon/Frost interviews, word came from the city of San Francisco on November 27, 1978 that its mayor, George Moscone, and one of its supervisors (councilmembers), Harvey Milk, had been assasinated by another supervisor, Dan White. At the time, I was a freshman at the University of Kentucky, enrolled as a political science major, and honestly not very focussed on anything at all, school or otherwise. Upon arrival at UK, I had been elected president of my dorm (Kirwan II) and a few weeks later was elected a vice-president of my pledge class in my fraternity (Sigma Pi). Once elected, my mind turned to partying and little else. The great diversion at the time were the protests both by and against Iranian students just before and after the uprising and subsequent revolution in Teheran, deposing the Shah and institution religious control. The gay revolution occurring in San Francisco was not on my radar screen despite my interests in the support and promotion of gay rights as a personal belief. My political barometer, which had started on the right when I was in my early teens had been gradually moving well to the left. Like the Frost/Nixon debates, I can't honestly say that I remember the San Francisco assassinations clearly. That isn't to say I don't remember them at all them as I clearly do. But, I've never really studied the background story leading up to the assassinations. I do remember all the controversy over Mr. White's so-called "twinkie defense" and his subsequent conviction on manslaughter charges. And I remember years later when it was reported that he committed suicide believing God has a way of spinning the wheel around.

The movie offers an deep-insider's look at the story of Harvey Milk, America's first openly gay politician, elected as a San Francisco City/County Supervisor in 1977. Milk is portrayed by Sean Penn. It is part history and part love story, but it is entirely lifted from a page of real American life; events which happened during my lifetime. With the possible exception of Matthew Shepard, Harvey Milk is America's only gay political martyr, a martyrdom which has only increased over the years. The movie portrays a number of characters, several of whom are still living, while others have passed on, notably that of Scott Smith, portrayed by James Franco, Milk's long-time lover and business partner who died in the 1990s from complications from AIDS. Among others still with us are Dan Nicoletta, Cleve Jones, and Anne Kronenberg, and each of their roles are memorably portrayed in the film.

At different points throughout the movie, I was moved to tears, mostly out of joy for the successes Milk made as a cultural leader, despite his losses as a political candidate. The movie goes through all of his races, and then his tenure as a supervisor, and finally his death. But nothing - nothing - prepared me for a scene at the film's end of the impromptu Memorial March from 18th and Market streets to City Hall in Milk's memory. Estimates then and now put the number at 30,000 to 50,000. The scene is partially recreated, combined with vintage footage from the actual march. It took my breath away and left me sobbing. While the movie may or may not be the greatest, it does tell a great story and, as stated, the ending is an eruption of emotion. The picture at left was taken, at the time, by Danny Nicoletta who is one of the characters portrayed in the film.

If history is any judge, I won't be back in a movie theatre for several years. And emotionally speaking, that might be a good thing as I need some time to recover.

The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.